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Religious centers, non-profits balance growth

Posted: October 17, 2008 9:10 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Ninth story in "The Big Picture," The Signal's series on plans for growth in the Santa Clarita Valley. Today we look at the challenges the valley's growth pose for faith institutions and non-profits. Click here for the rest of the stories.

For faith and charity institutions, the projected growth of Santa Clarita Valley’s population means more challenges — including the challenge of maintaining the community’s spirit.

“Sometimes when you get larger, it becomes less personable and runs like an operation,” said Rabbi Ira Rosenfeld of Congregation Beth Shalom. “We want to run efficiently but still maintain intimacy. It would mean we’d have to start taking on more: more classes, more staff — there’s all sorts of things we’d need to expand.

“I’m very optimistic.”

Rosenfeld’s optimism was echoed by many who make service their life’s calling — despite financial challenges brought on by the current economic downturn.

“There’s always tension between the need for funding, volunteers, and donors that come alongside,” said Angela Bennett, CEO of the SCV Pregnancy Center and president of an informal nonprofit leaders’ council that met Monday.

”It only makes sense that if the valley would grow, so would the number of those less fortunate in our valley,” said Belinda Crawford, executive director of the SCV Food Pantry.

Despite the current challenges, “I’m optimistic if I look down the road,” said Jim Ventress, chief professional officer of the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club.

The club plans to open at least two more full-service centers in Newhall and Saugus, in addition to the two currently full-service centers in Canyon Country and Newhall, Ventress said.

Each center provides a gym, recreation center, learning center, computer lab, teen lounge and administrative offices.

While Grace Baptist Church is already a bustling congregation that grew tremendously in 10 years, it does not plan to turn anyone away.

“It’s been a part of the DNA of Grace all along that this is a growing community and we need to be prepared to reach out to in-coming families in light of where we are physically,” he said.

Leaders of Grace Baptist are preparing for a surge in diversity. The church added a Spanish ministry and plans to add at least two more ethnic ministries soon.

“The key thing is to balance community and growth,” Rosenfeld said. “Truthfully, I think you can balance both.”


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